The Strand c1865
The Great Dry Dock, 1890
Liverpool 800, that fine book published to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Liverpool’s first charter, describes the area around the Custom House as Sailor Town. Maybe it is not a commonly used expression but it is entirely appropriate, for this small area was the centre of Liverpool’s shipping trade. Sadly, although remnants of The Strand survived into the mid-1970s, there is little left to excite the keen historian wishing to make sense of the Port’s history. Only the Baltic Fleet survives of the many public houses that would have been thronged with visiting sailors. Heap Mill is a rare warehouse survivor in an area in which the predominate building was the tall, filing cabinet structures that lined every street.
The top photograph is an early view, with the Custom House’s impressive classical facade dominating the street. The position of the dome indicates what a huge building it was (although it apparently had a rather dingy and depressing interior). Its position is approximately where the Hilton Hotel now stands, facing the Albert Dock.
The second view shows the facade of the Custom House from the Albert Dock. The repair of the old wooden ships must have been coming to an end. There are two ships in the dry dock, with a small gathering of bystanders unknowingly watching a dying trade in ship maintenance.
First of all, my apologies for the break in service. I am back refreshed and with a whole new batch of images to share.
Today’s photograph is of the original Adelphi Hotel, one of the great hotels of the Victorian era, My reason for posting it is that plans for the regeneration of Lime Street are moving a step nearer after the City Council approved the developer’s scheme this week. The news has hardly met with great rejoicing, in spite of the universal acceptance that something needs to be done to upgrade the street. As I have mentioned before, the new scheme removes most of the historic fabric, including early nineteenth century buildings as well as the important Futurist cinema facade (I accept that the actual body of the cinema is beyond salvation).
SAVEBritain’s heritage are now involved but whether the scheme is referred back in now up to the Communities and Local Government minister. I am not holding my breath.
Of course it is wrong to object to development purely for the sake of it. The Adelphi Hotel pictured above was unceremoniously demolished and replaced by the current hotel just before the First World War. But what a replacement! Under any criteria, the new hotel is an upgrade and a very welcome addition to the streetscape. I have mentioned Commutation Row before, where an ecletic row of buildings was replaced by a bland office block. The proposed Lime Street scheme seems little better – an unexceptional and unexciting block that could find its equal in any of a dozen cities. Liverpool deserves better.
On a final note, I am puzzled as to why the facade of the Futurist cannot be saved. Unless the brickwork is damaged beyond repair, why cannot it be dismantled and rebuilt as part of the new scheme. After all, this is the twenty-first century!